Young woman checking her teeth at mirror

Swollen gums: why it happens and how to prevent it

Red and swollen gums are relatively common symptoms that can occur in any adult. Swollen gums may be painful and you might be wondering why this problem has arisen. Read on to discover more about gum inflammation and how to prevent it.

Why are my gums swollen?

One of the most common reasons for swollen gums is gum disease. This is a condition that affects many people all over the world and may explain why your gums are swollen, inflamed or painful. It’s an infection of the tissue around your teeth and is thought to affect around 90 per cent of adults in the UK.

The early infection is known as gingivitis. It is caused by too much plaque buildup on your teeth that irritates the gums. If this plaque isn’t removed, for example when you brush your teeth, it can continue to grow and makes the problem worse. Signs of gingivitis include red gums, bad breath and bleeding when you brush your teeth. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis. This is a more serious gum disease condition that can affect the strength of the tissue surrounding your teeth. Eventually, the bone in your jaw can become damaged and your teeth may start to fall out.

This is why you should seek advice from a dentist if you notice swollen gums. The infection can be treated and this could prevent further oral problems in the future. In more advanced cases, an X-ray of your mouth may be needed to show the damage caused to your teeth and jaw.[1] Other reasons for swollen gums include vitamin deficiency, particularly vitamins B and C, or infections such as thrush. 

What causes swollen gums overnight?

If you’ve noticed that your gums have suddenly swelled up overnight, the problem may not be gum disease. Here are some potential options if you want to find out what makes your gums swell.

  • Swollen gums due to food stuck in teeth

In some cases, a foreign object, such as a piece of food, may have become lodged between a tooth and the gum, causing swelling and even pain. You should check the area thoroughly, ideally using a light to help you see better.

  • Pregnancy and swollen gums

During pregnancy, swollen gums are quite common due to the increased hormone production, so if you find that this has happened overnight, it’s nothing to be concerned about. It is, however, worth noting that such hormonal changes can prevent your body from fighting off bacteria. This means you have a heightened risk of developing gum disease. 

For this reason, dental care is free in the UK during the pregnancy and for up to one year after the baby is born. You should take advantage of this and see your dentist if you have any concerns or notice swollen or bleeding gums or bad breath.[2]

How to reduce swollen gums and prevent them from coming back

For gingivitis or mild cases of gum disease, the symptoms may go away if you regularly brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce swollen gums and ensure the problem doesn’t recur. Brushing your teeth removes the plaque that may have built up and keeps your teeth healthy. Plaque contains lots of bacteria, some of it good and some of it bad. This is why it’s so important to get rid of it. If you don’t get rid of plaque, it can harden and turn into tartar. This cannot be removed by you and so you would need to seek professional advice.

Before you brush your teeth, you should floss them first using floss picks. Doing so will not only remove any dislodged food or other debris, but also removes the plaque that can get stuck between your teeth. Once you’ve flossed, it’s important to brush your teeth using a circular motion rather than moving the brush forwards and backwards. This may help to completely brush the plaque away instead of just moving it over the surface of your teeth. Doing this every day could reduce your chances of getting gum disease and will keep your mouth healthy.

You should regularly see a dentist to ensure that you have no oral problems and that your teeth and gums are healthy. By going to the dentist every one to two years, potential problems should be found before they’ve developed into bigger problems. You should see the dentist more regularly than this if you’ve had gum disease in the past. You might also consider visiting a hygienist every year too. They will deep clean your mouth and can look out for gum disease issues and take dental X-rays. They also might be able to recommend a type of toothpaste especially for symptoms of gum disease.[3]





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